Not a short story. A book. Eight-eight thousand words worth of book. My agent (who does a fantastic job and who I enjoy working with) tried and tried, but no takers.
A whole book, going nowhere (I must add the optimistic “for now”). It’s not the first time.
Right after I finished FantsticLand and Pack, my two published novels, I submitted a manuscript to my agent that wasn’t a horror book. It was something different and fun, something I really liked (and still like), but his response was a simple, firm, “not this one”. It was a hard lesson but an important one.
“I can’t sell this from you”. Got it. Moving on.
A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post about how I wrote a book in 45 days. That was this book that just got rejected. I got it down and improved it, got some gutting feedback from my beta readers, pushed it as far as I thought it could go and submitted it.
A quick aside – rejection comes in many forms in publishing but I really do appreciate those who do it kindly. If I could share a rejection letter and have you trust me that it was authentic:
“I think Mike is an undeniably talented writer—again, his characters are very well fleshed out and realistic, which is no small feat!—however, I didn’t feel as strongly engaged by the overall voice of the piece as I’d wanted to be, which made it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in the story.”
That’s some quality rejection, and I do appreciate it. I like the kindness inherent in the rejection But it’s still rejection.
In the past few years I’ve counseled probably 50 people who want to write books. I tell them the query process by which you secure an agent, is the worst because you get ignored and rejected and ignored and then ignored and rejected and ignored some more. Tenacity can’t just be your friend, I tell people. You have to be fucking.
So, to stop now would be the height of hypocrisy, wouldn’t it? Or would continuing be the height of stupidity. Hard to tell sometimes.
It sucks that the novel I wrote won’t be my “third” book. Truth be told if the people who read it were tepid about it, how do you think readers would react. Didn’t a wise man once say “I’ve been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage”? I know that feeling and am glad to be spared from it.
But, truthfully, I mourn the work. I thought about this novel and obsessed over it and got out of bed in the middle of the night to write down ideas and felt really good about myself when I finished it. I had pieces in this novel that are as good as anything I’d ever written. I will mourn that.
But I’m not going to stop. Even if I never publish another book I have proven to myself that I’m a writer. I’ve got 6 ideas for books in the early stages. I’ve got a book half done that takes us back to the effects of Hurricane Sadie. I like writing. It’s brought me in contact with amazing people and continues to do so. So I’m not stopping. Not now. Probably not for a while.
But this sucks.
Tomorrow I will shake it off and keep writing but I’m sitting with it tonight. Thanks for sitting with me.
I was on the Bad Movie Night podcast recently to talk about Shudder’s new Creepshow series with hosts Ian and Chris. It was a great time and if you like anthology series, you could do a whole lot worse than the new Creepshow.
Who’s up for a nasty little short story in time for Halloween? Content warning: gore, language, gambling, moderate torture.
I know what you’re going to say.
Every single argument, I get it. I know them too. Personal responsibility, that’s a big one. People need to be responsible for their actions. You can’t control what people do, right? It’s legal. That’s another one. It’s legal and if it’s legal that means what you’re doing doesn’t have consequences, at least not consequences like this. The law washes you clean as the driven snow from any consequences of your actions, am I right? Am I close?
Let me run down your other excuses. It’s entertainment. It’s luck. I didn’t have to come into your casino. I didn’t have to put my money down. Nothing forced me to do any of this AS IF that somehow absolves you and your giant fucking obscene, gaudy monument from responsibility. I’m sure you give to charity. Just a matter of time before you throw that one out there. It’s the old “yes, I have money in my hands but money in my hands means charity and good works while money in the hands of people means drugs and misery and…”. Bullshit, bullshit bullshit. All of it.
The truth is you decided, over all the other things you could have done with your life, to do this. To run a casino. And you had to know, in the back of your head somewhere, that gambling can cause misery. And, somewhere back there, you knew that eventually you’d run into a guy like me.
Oh, who the fuck am I to tell you about your business? I have a very specialized set of perspectives to bring to your business, actually. I could go on for a while, but I won’t. Let’s just say, I’ve suffered because of your business. I’ve lost everything. And now you’re going to lose something. Seems only fair.
Don’t believe me. OK. Let’s get one of those fingers off.
Ahhhh. Yep. Here it is. Oh, man, you know, you jam your fingers or sprain your fingers and it’s just pain, pain, pain all day long and you think those fingers are on there good and proper, but I am surprised at how easy it was to get this off. Just a snip, really. Not hard at all. Even the bone wasn’t that hard to clip if you do it fast enough. Good job keeping that elevated. You look like you’re losing a some blood there.
What do I want? Let’s talk about that.
My life is over. I knew that from the second I lost all that money at your place. Roulette, right? She’s a bitch. It’s that double green that always gets me. I’m sure you know this, but the green spots on the roulette wheel, they were invented to tip the odds in the house’s favor. Like the house needs a tip in its favor, am I right? Anyway, the moment I hit double zero, I knew life was over. Done. I was going to go to my favorite spot downtown, climb on the roof, watch the sun rise and off myself. That hasn’t changed. Nothing can change that, even if you gave me the money back. I’m done, which is why you are here.
It’s the lack of consequences that gets me. Always has. I rememberer once I saw a woman lose all her money in a casino and the guards ushered her to a back room where she wouldn’t have a break down on the gaming floor. See, to me that means this happens so often that there’s a protocol. Probably a code on the floor, right? Code “sad bastard” or something. You ruin people’s lives but the wheels keep spinning. It’s happened for so long it probably doesn’t even register in that big ole’ brain of yours. That business brain. That woman who was hustled off, she’s just a number and you hide behind the charity and the personal responsibility arguments and everything else.
But you owe, motherfucker. I know you don’t believe it, but you owe.
You asked me what I want? Here’s what I want. I want you to play a game with me and here’s how it’ll go.
You ain’t walking out of here with all your fingers, but I’m not going to kill you. That’s off the table. I’m not offing myself with a murder on my conscience. That ain’t me. But how many fingers you walk out of her with, and what condition the rest of you is in is up to you. I figure you need to go through something uniquely unpleasant, so I’m gonna take this finger here, the one I already cut off, and I’m gonna cook it up real nice for ya.
Then you’re gonna eat it.
Well, not eating any of it is certainly an option, but let me lay it out. I figure I can cook this into three pretty good bites. I’ll season them and everything. Get ya some fucking catchup if you want. But if you eat none of it, you walk out of here with two bloody stumps with no fingers attached. Maybe you bleed to death, I don’t fuckin’ know. You eat one piece, you keep all the fingers on one hand, lose all the fingers on the other. You eat two pieces, I beat the shit out of you and leave you here. The cleaning crew will find you in the morning. Eat all three pieces I give you my phone and you’re home by supper with nine fingers on your hands and another well on it’s way to becoming shit.
What’s it gonna be?
Didn’t you hear me? Did you not fucking listen to a word I said? I’m not after your money. My life is done. I fucked it up beyond repair. Even if you gave me every dollar your casino made in a year I’d still be offing myself in a couple hours. Nothing can stop that and nothing can stop this. You’re fucking doing it. Figure it out. I’m gonna start the burner.
No, I’m not going to make you eat a bone. I’m not a savage.
Man, I didn’t think about the fingernail. Trying to cook this up and the top part isn’t cooking because of the fingernail. The things you don’t think about, huh? The things that don’t occur to you, am I right? I know you’ve got that really fancy place in your casino. I bet the head chef would have thought to pull the fingernail off, huh? Asshole probably makes more in a weekend than I’ve ever made in my life.
All right, here we go. Three pieces, just like I told ya. Doesn’t even look like a finger. Could be anything. Here we go.
I figured you’d try threats, but man, you are convincing. A real screamer. Man. That threat sounded real, but do me a favor. No, just listen. Do me a favor. Turn your brain back on for me, OK, because…yeah…OK. It’s gonna go this way, then.
Oh, Jesus, you crying now? Never been hit in the face? Not once? God, what a privileged fucking life you must lead. I’ve been hit in the face, all my friends have been hit in the face. Shit, I bet each and every one of your employees on your casino floor right now have been hit in the face. Your security, they damn sure have been hit in the face. No question. You know what, let’s do that again.
There we go. Got some blood going from the nose, hair all out of place. You’ve never had to deal with anything like this in your life, have ya? Now we’re cooking. Speaking of cooking, it’s time. Start chowing down or I’m going to start chopping fingers. Yeah, sure. I’ll give you a minute but no more stalling. It’s time.
Keep it down. Keep it down. Don’t do it. Don’t…
Ah man. That’s nasty. What the fuck is that? Smoothie? It’s green. I’m not a sympathetic puker at all but, damn, that’s enough to get me going. Ha! You lost it right away. No hope of keeping it down. Well, let…me…just grab this. Don’t worry, I’ll rinse it off for you.
Well, yeah, you’re still eating it. This ain’t gym class. You don’t get out of it just because of a little puke. Just be glad after all the shit you put me through I’m rinsing it off for you. You personally made fourteen million dollars last year. I should make you eat your own puke you greedy fucking pig.
Yeah, we can save that piece for last. You got your legs under ya? All right and open wide, here’s the first one.
Nah, that’s fine. Swallowing it like a pill is fine. There aren’t rules to this. Ain’t no double zeros here that I know of. You kept it down. Let me know when you’re ready for round two. Ready now? All right here we go. This piece is a little bigger, but not by much. Ought to be able to keep it down.
Man, must get easier after you start, huh? That first one, that’s the rough one. That one was fine. All right, two down, one to go.
Ahhh, you’re thinking about it. What’s worse, choking this down or getting a beating and spending the night with your hands and feet cuffed to a chair, right? Doing the math in your head, right? Well, let’s see if I can make it easier for you.
That one, that’s for my house that I sold.
That, that’s for the look on my wife’s face when she found out.
That, and…fuck you, this! This was for the look on my daughter’s face when she left.
This? For the bullshit signs you put in your casino about gambling addiction. I called that number. A lot. Didn’t do shit.
And this? Yeah, this? This one’s for double zero you motherfucker.
Yeah, I know. I never gave you the choice but, let’s be fair. I was always going to beat you. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse or I didn’t have anything heavier handy. Smashing your head in doesn’t sound too bad right about now but then you’re pain’s over. Your pain has just started, my man. Just started.
In fact, let’s do this.
Now I got the matching set. Two middle fingers. You gave me the double bird and then I cut them off. Not so bad for this life, if you ask me.
Well, enjoy your time waiting for the cleaning crew, my man. Tell Rachel hi for me. She’s a good egg. Got a great singing voice.
I was gonna let you go before you said that. I was going to be a man of my word. I was going to do exactly what I said I was going to do. Then you had to go and say that.